Australia: Latrobe Valley residents denounce corporate onslaught
21 January 2017
Workers in the Latrobe Valley, about 150 kilometres east of Melbourne, the Victorian state capital, are a confronting major assault on their jobs and working conditions in the power, mining and paper industries. WSWS reporters spoke to local residents last week about these attacks and their impact on the already high levels of unemployment and poverty in the region.
Just over a week ago, the Fair Work Commission (FWC), the federal government’s industrial tribunal, accepted an application by the AGL energy corporation to terminate the existing workplace agreement at its Loy Yang A power plant.
The ruling opens the way for the company to impose massive pay cuts—between 30 and 65 percent—on its 570 employees and eliminate hard-won working conditions and entitlements. On Wednesday, the FWC declared that workers at the plant could not take any form of industrial action, including imposing overtime bans or taking what it claimed were unwarranted amounts of leave.
These attacks are being aided and abetted by the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) and the Electrical Trades Union (ETU), which are appealing to the company to negotiate a new cost-cutting agreement.
Last month, the two unions called off a one-day strike scheduled for December 28, without consultation with their members. The Victorian state Labor government, which is supported by the major unions, also threatened to intervene through the FWC to prevent industrial action.
The Labor Party and unions oppose unified action by AGL power workers to fight these cuts and the impending closure of the nearby Hazelwood power plant. They have also tried to isolate the power workers from the…